Having now spent many months in Costa Rica and with Max having grown up here, we know a thing or two about Costa Rica. And after helping 40 of our friends and family make their way to Costa Rica for our wedding in 2015, we know exactly the questions on first-time travelers’ minds. We decided to compile all our tips and tricks for traveling in Costa Rica, what to bring, what to avoid and, even, what to wear!
Prostitution is legal in Costa Rica and can be a destination for those looking for more than sun and surf on their vacation. San Jose and Jaco are hot spots for this activity. As with any other sex destination, there are some tourists that hire minors. Prostitution with minors (less than 18 years old) is considered a crime in Costa Rica. The majority of sex tourists in Costa Rica are from the United States, and, if they engage in prostitution with a minor, are prosecutable by the Protect Act of 2003. This act gives the US government the power to prosecute US citizens who travel abroad to engage in sex tourism with children under the age of 18. Several other countries including France, Canada, the UK, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, and Australia have similar laws. Arrests, warrants and prosecutions are being made under these laws.
Since the late 1980s Costa Rica became a popular nature travel destination, and its main competitive advantage is its well-established system of national parks and protected areas, covering around 23.4% of the country's land area, the largest in the world as a percentage of the country's territory, and home to a rich variety of flora and fauna, in a country that has only 0.03% of the world's landmass, but that is estimated to contain 5% of the world's biodiversity. The country also has plenty of world renowned beaches, both in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, within short travel distances between both coasts both by air and land, and also several active volcanoes that can be visited with safety.
Accommodation – Hostel dorm beds are between 5,500 to 10,000 CRC (10-15 USD) per night. Private rooms in hostels are usually around 15,000 CRC (25 USD). Free WiFi is standard, and most hostels also include free breakfast. The majority of hostels around the country also offer self-catering facilities, too. Budget hotels begin around 17,000 CRC (30 USD) per night for a double/twin room and go up from there (breakfast is often included). For Airbnb, shared accommodation usually begins around 15,000 CRC (25 USD) per night. For an entire home or apartment, expect to pay around 25,000 CRC (40 USD) per night. For those traveling with a tent, camping is an option. Most campgrounds usually charge 5,500 CRC (10 USD) per night though you’ll pay up to double that for camping in national parks.
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As of March 2017, the exchange rate was 554 colones per US dollar. Money exchange is provided at most banks; however, it is recommended to do so at the state banks, especially the Banco Nacional, since they have better rates. There is also a money exchange service at the airport, but it is outrageously expensive. But note that the use of US dollars is quite common; in the tourist setting, almost everything is priced in dollars (but sometimes prices are cheaper in colones). Note that when a price is quoted in "dollars", the speaker may be thinking of a dollar as 500 colones; so it is always worth checking whether this is what is meant.
Zicasso's network of Costa Rica travel agents and specialists are considered to be among the industry's top 10%, and have been personally vetted through a detailed screening process for their level of knowledge, expertise and reputation. Based on the positive feedback of Zicasso's clients and the endorsements of our top travel specialists, a highly selective group of accommodations have been recognized with Zicasso's Top Travel Specialist's Choice Award, which can often be found on the hotels' websites.
From your biggest concerns, like which airline to fly, to the seemingly insignificant details that can make or break your vacation (do you really need five different types of bug repellent?), our experts have you covered. Whatever your question or concern, you’ll find the answer here. It’s everything you need to know to pull off a worry-free, safe, and easy Costa Rican vacation.
"Canopy tours" or zip-lines are very popular tourist activities and are found all over Costa Rica. These typically cost between USD30-50 depending on the company and use a series of zip-lines to travel between platforms attached to the trees, through and over the forest canopy and over rivers. The person is secured with harnesses to the metal cords, as some go very high off the ground. Be sure to ask about the zip-line certification before booking and be sure to take part in the safety briefing before participating.
volcanism: Arenal (1,670 m), which erupted in 2010, is the most active volcano in Costa Rica; a 1968 eruption destroyed the town of Tabacon; Irazu (3,432 m), situated just east of San Jose, has the potential to spew ash over the capital city as it did between 1963 and 1965; other historically active volcanoes include Miravalles, Poas, Rincon de la Vieja, and Turrialba
I mean, who doesn’t love dinner with a nice sunset view, am I right? One of our absolute favorite places to enjoy dinner with a view is in Manuel Antonio. we like Manuel Antonio because there are a lot of restaurants up on the hills. This means you get the perfect sunset viewing spot. Just a warning though, bring plenty of bug spray. The second the sun goes down it gets super mosquito-y.
You may think that Costa Rica is a cheap destination to travel to given its location in Central America. We found out first hand that couldn’t be further from the truth. While traveling around Costa Rica we found park fees to be high for the tourists (remember those waterfalls I talked about?), fuel prices expensive at $1.20/liter, car rental prices high given that you had to add insurance to everything, and food prices a rip off.
Located in the heart of San Jose, La Sabana Metropolitan Park is an oasis of a green recreational space nestled in the concrete jungle of high-rise office blocks. The park is very popular with walkers and joggers as well as office workers, who escape into the open air to enjoy their lunch hour. At the heart of the park lies a scenic lake, where you can hire a paddle boat, and there are also tennis courts, a football field, and roller-skate paths. Children can enjoy pony rides, a children’s playground, and lots of open space for running around and letting off steam. La Sabana is also home to the National Football Stadium.
Located in the Arenal-Tempisque area, the Curi Cancha Reserve is a privately owned nature reserve that covers 205 acres of tropical cloud forest, which is home to a wide variety of birds, reptiles, and small animals. Curi-Cancha is the perfect place to get back to nature and do some serious bird watching, either on your own or with the help of a specialist guide who knows just where to find all the shy and rare species. You can go hiking along 7miles of trails, which will take you through virgin rainforest as well as some secondary forest – be on the lookout for some really unusual mammals, such as the armadillo, the sloth, and three species of monkeys. The reserve offers several guided tours, including a rather magical night tour.
This morning, visit CHILDREN’S ETERNAL RAINFOREST for a guided walking tour. Over 600 species of butterflies and 400 species of birds have been recorded inside this private reserve, along with 100 reptile and 120 mammal species that hide within the dense vegetation. Later, visit the family-owned ECOLOGICAL SANCTUARY, where you will explore the trails through coffee and banana plantations filled with endemic wildlife and beautiful scenery. After the walk, enjoy a COOKING CLASS to learn how to prepare authentic Costa Rican food like hand-made tortillas, picadillos, and gallo pinto. Dine on your creations for a homemade lunch! Tonight, your Tour Director hosts a farewell dinner, toasting an unforgettable discovery of Costa Rica.
Tourist stays up to 90-Days: Authorities may permit stays up to 90 days without a visa, but are not required to do so. Be sure to leave by your required date of departure. Immigration authorities may levy a fine on foreigners who overstay their visas. Even a short overstay may result in significant delays, deportation, and/or denial of entry to Costa Rica in the future.
Beyond altitude-related temperature considerations, the biggest issue for first-time Costa Rica visitors is the timing of the rainy season. On the Pacific side, the rainy season runs from April or May through October or November, with a brief pause in June and July. Precipitation levels are highest along the southern Pacific coast, where late summer and early fall are washout seasons. The balance of the year is dry. At low elevations in the northwest, you’re unlikely to encounter anything more than a brief shower between December and April.
In November 2017, National Geographic magazine named Costa Rica as the happiest country in the world.[146] The article included this summary: "Costa Ricans enjoy the pleasure of living daily life to the fullest in a place that mitigates stress and maximizes joy".[147] It is not surprising then that one of the most recognizable phrases among "Ticos" is "Pura Vida", pure life in a literal translation. It reflects the inhabitant's philosophy of life,[148] denoting a simple life, free of stress, a positive, relaxed feeling.[149] The expression is used in various contexts in conversation.[150] Often, people walking down the streets, or buying food at shops say hello by saying Pura Vida. It can be phrased as a question or as an acknowledgement of one's presence. A recommended response to "How are you?" would be "Pura Vida."[151] In that usage, it might be translated as "awesome", indicating that all is very well.[152] When used as a question, the connotation would be "everything is going well?" or "how are you?".[148]
Like most of Central America, Costa Rican cuisine is influenced by Spanish, South American, Caribbean and American cuisine. In general, the food tends to be wholesome and tasty, but not very spicy. On the Caribbean side of the country, however, food has an Afro-Caribbean flair, with dishes featuring coconut milk, more spices, and lots of pork and goat.
Thanks for the input, Emilia. We have heard of Waze before, but haven’t given it a try yet. Google Maps has not let us done in Costa Rica yet! As for the price of gas, the small side of the road stall definitely overcharge (i don’t think they abide by the laws all that much), but that’s the “convenience tax” you pay to fill up in a small town without having to travel to a city with a real gas station.
The people of Costa Rica, who call themselves “Ticos,” are the proud stewards of this natural heritage. In contrast to the rest of Central America, which suffered a series of ruthless dictators and bloody civil wars throughout the 20th century, Costa Rica is a stable democracy that abolished its army in 1949 and invested in its people. Today its citizens are among the most educated and prosperous in Latin America.
Visitors seeking metropolis-aimed vacations can enjoy San Jose's colonial-era architecture juxtaposed with the city's urban street art - the dichotomy creates a dynamic beauty that no other city can quite encapsulate. The sweet smells of Costa Rican bananas, fresh coffee beans and chocolate can be found at the Central Market, and if you'd like to pick up a souvenir, everything from artisan leather goods to handmade musical instruments can be found here.
In San José there is not one central bus station, but rather several different ones, with each station roughly serving a different area of the country, with some exceptions. For example, most of the service to the Caribbean side of the country leaves from the Terminal Gran Caribe. However, in November 2012 the direct service to the far south Caribbean coast moved to the Puntarenas bus station, which mostly serves the west side of the country. Still, you can still get to the Caribe side by taking a bus (on the Autotransportes Caribeños‎ line) from the Terminal Gran Caribe to Limón, and then transferring there to another bus south (the Mepe line). Or just go to the Mepe terminal in SJ for a direct bus to Puerto Viejo or any other place on the South Caribean coast. In short, do some research beforehand so you don't get lost looking for your bus. Often you can just call or email your final destination (e.g. your hotel) and they will tell you what bus to take, where to catch it and how often it runs. Schedules are available online.
The park, one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica, is a crucial sanctuary for wildlife and serves as a bridge between the Northwest’s dry, tropical forest, and the wet rainforest of the southern Pacific. As such, it supports a wide variety of waterfowl and other species, including woodpeckers, toucans, manakins, jacamars, and hundreds of other birds. Even the scarlet macaw can be found here, with an estimated 450 birds living within the park. This makes it the only area in the north Pacific to be home to a significant population of the endangered bird.
Refined petroleum products - consumption: This entry is the country's total consumption of refined petroleum products, in barrels per day (bbl/day). The discrepancy between the amount of refined petroleum products produced and/or imported and the amount consumed and/or exported is due to the omission of stock changes, refinery gains, and other complicating factors.
Third, don’t read too much. The amount of information you can find on line is overwhelming and you will end up getting totally confused about what to do and see. Have an initial idea in mind about an area or areas you want to see, and then start checking on hotel accommodations in each location so that you can start getting some rates as well. If you get confused or frustrated, it’s time for you to contact a local travel agent in Costa Rica; someone who knows the country and can guide you well.

Price is per person, based on double occupancy, and includes hotel rates, hotel taxes, roundtrip airfare, and gov't taxes/fees applicable to airfare based on specified departure city. Price may vary for other departure cities. Price shown is sample price found 11/10/15 on jetblue.com/vacations for travel departing JFK on 2/5/16 - 2/12/16 and may not represent current savings. Package/price subject to availability; may change without notice; valid for new bookings only; capacity controlled; may not be available on all dates or with all flights; and may be restricted to certain hotel room categories.
We had an amazing time and Geovanni our tour guide really enhanced our Costa Rica experience. It is amazing how much packed into one day. His stories and descriptions of the sites and the land and the history was phenomenal. His ability to relate to the children and engage them was also quite fantastic. We learned so much from Geovanni and had lots of fun. The driver Alex was great as well. I would highly recommend this trip to our friends & family. Thanks again Geovanni for making the trip memorable.
In early August 2017, President Luis Guillermo Solís admitted that the country was facing a "liquidity crisis" and promised that a higher VAT tax and higher income tax rates were being considered by his government. Such steps are essential, Luis Guillermo Solís told the nation, because it was facing difficulties in paying its obligations and guaranteeing the provision of services.[95] Solís explained that the Treasury will prioritize payments on the public debt first, then salaries, and then pensions. The subsequent priorities include transfers to institutions "according to their social urgency". All other payments will be made only if funds are available.[13]
Driving through country roads to the sub-tropical climate of La Guacima you will arrive at The Butterfly Farm, an ideal location for breeding butterflies. The journey then continues to Cafe Britts Farm in Heredia. In the midst of volcanoes, greenery and a working coffee farm, guests will participate in the awards-winning Coffee tour de Cafe Britt, Costa Rica's longest running theatrical production. Expert coffee tasters will share their knowledge of the art and science of gourmet coffee appreciation.
volcanism: Arenal (1,670 m), which erupted in 2010, is the most active volcano in Costa Rica; a 1968 eruption destroyed the town of Tabacon; Irazu (3,432 m), situated just east of San Jose, has the potential to spew ash over the capital city as it did between 1963 and 1965; other historically active volcanoes include Miravalles, Poas, Rincon de la Vieja, and Turrialba

Located in Alajuela, the Territory of Strays is a rather unique dog shelter, which has been established in response to the vast number of stray dogs that roamed the streets of Costa Rica. Animal euthanasia is a criminal offence in Costa Rica and although several animal shelters take in stray dogs, most mixed breeds will never be adopted. At Territory of the Strays one enlightened veterinarian hit upon the idea of advertising one-of-a-kind unique breeds of dogs with invented names, which were suddenly far more attractive than simple mongrels. Adoptions increased dramatically and now the shelter arranges mountain hikes, where the public can go walking with hundreds of stray dogs.
Land use: This entry contains the percentage shares of total land area for three different types of land use: agricultural land, forest, and other; agricultural land is further divided into arable land - land cultivated for crops like wheat, maize, and rice that are replanted after each harvest, permanent crops - land cultivated for crops like citrus, coffee, and rubber that are not replanted after each harvest, and includes land under flowering shrubs, fruit trees, nut trees, and vines, and permane . . . more
Don’t let the high likelihood of rain dampen your spirits though. Tapanti boasts a slew of plant and animal species not found anywhere else, including newly discovered miniature orchid species smaller than 5 millimeters (less than one-fifth of an inch). Expect to pay $10 per person, per day, to enter. If you want to fish in any of the dozens of rivers here, you can buy a permit (cost varies) at the visitor center.
That’s another bonus: you don’t have to be a pioneer in Costa Rica. There are well-established expat communities throughout the country. Things are “set up” so to speak, when it comes to shipping your household goods, using the healthcare system, buying property, and more. And by following this well-trodden path, your transition to your new life is much easier.
Crocodiles are quite common in certain parts of Costa Rica and, although not as dangerous as the Nile or saltwater species, are still considered occasional man-eaters and can grow to lengths of up to 20 feet/6 meters. The biggest spot for them is the Tarcoles river bridge in the central pacific as posted in the Jaco wiki. It is recommended to stop the vehicle nearby and walk across it. Some locals throw chicken meat and watch them eat. Great care should be taken when swimming or snorkeling, especially near areas where fishing is common or near river mouths.
Costa Rica is a true diamond in the Central American rough. Situated between Nicaragua and Panama, it’s less than 100 miles wide in places. From the tops of the highest peaks, it’s possible to glimpse both the Atlantic and Pacific basins on a clear day – though, as we’ll see, clear days are (ironically) in short supply in some of Costa Rica’s fairest provinces.
If you’re looking for a rental option that offers luxury, then you’ll want to look into renting your vacation place at a resort. While a resort might sound expensive, it might actually be the most economical choice in the long run. Often times, you’ll have access to money-saving perks that you wouldn’t have elsewhere. All-inclusive resorts will of course offer the most amenities, like meals and drinks, which can be budget-friendly. Resort vacation rentals are great for long term visit, whether business or personal, and can also be a great option for large groups. A luxury resort isn’t limited to hotel properties either; there is a wide range of rental types available.
In the event of a traffic accident, do not move the vehicle. Both the traffic police and an insurance investigator must make accident reports before the vehicles can be moved. Drivers using rental cars should clarify their company’s policy in the event of accidents. Rental companies may levy additional charges on drivers for failing to file a report.
This sustainable Costa Rica hotel is typical of San Jose colonial hacienda architecture and offers spacious, comfortable guestrooms and suites with the latest amenities. Enjoy total convenience in its location, personalized services, delicious cuisine, and facilities like the pool and fitness center. Let the friendly staff help you relax while catering to your needs and helping you see all that Costa Rica has to offer.
We had a wonderful time! Rafael was a wealth of knowledge of the history of Costa Rica, all the wildlife that we saw, and his organizational skills were outstanding throughout the tour. The accommodations were amazing and we were so impressed with how clean all of the areas were and how friendly all the staff of the hotels were. More importantly all of the staff of Gate 1 were very kind and helpful. The bus driver Mauricio was outstanding driving that huge bus through those mountain roads, making sure the bus was spotless, and being helpful and friendly. We will definitely use Gate 1 Travel for other upcoming trips.
Jaco was once a sleepy resort town whose main attraction was its excellent surfing, but growing tourism has transformed it into a haven of beach parties and pumping nightclubs. Surf lessons and rentals are widely available on the beaches and sport-fishing is also popular here. For a more sedate affair, head to the nearby Carara Biological Reserve to spot scarlet macaws, armadillos and hundreds of species of bird.
Good, fresh fruit is abundant in variety and low in cost. Mercados provide an excellent place to sample fruit and other Costa Rican fare, with many including sit-down snack bars. You are encouraged to experiment because some of the local fruits do not "travel well" as they are bruised easily and or have a short shelf life. The mango found in store in North America are much more fibrous and less sweet than the mangos found in Costa Rica. The fingerling bananas are much more creamy and less tart than the ones found in North America.
After you’ve had your fill of Playa Hermosa, head over the ridge – a short drive or long walk – and grab a cheap drink and plate at any of the beachfront cantinas along the area’s main drag. If you’re up for more adventure, sign up for a scuba or boat tour here – you’ll see signs lining the roads. Expect a daylong trip out on the water to set you back $100 per person.
Similar to how it is done in the United States, there are apartments available in Costa Rica to rent for short-term (well, long-term for you but short-term as far as leases go). Apartments are great to rent if you want to get a really authentic feel for one of the major cities in Costa Rica, like San José or Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. With an apartment rental, you can be right in the hustle and bustle of the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Costa Rican cities, instead of being housed away on a hotel property.

There is such biodiversity in Costa Rica not only because it's a land bridge between North and South America, but also because the terrain is so varied and there are weather patterns moving in from both the Pacific and Atlantic/Caribbean. There are impressive volcanoes, mountain areas, rivers, lakes, and beaches all throughout the country. There are many beautiful beaches - most of the popular ones are on the Pacific side but the Caribbean has many excellent beaches as well.
One of Costa Rica’s greatest advantages is its ability to cater to so many different groups of people. Whether it be a large family, a group of retirees, a corporate business, a yoga circle, or a big wedding party, you’ll find the perfect accommodations in a paradisiacal atmosphere. Children can discover a world of amazing animals, teenagers can enjoy a day of surfing, Dad can take an offshore fishing charter, and Mom can indulge in a day at a hot springs spa. Costa Rica truly offers something for everyone, ensuring each visitor leaves with a lasting memory to smile about.

Adventure Sports: Some tour operators take risks, and government regulation and oversight of firms that organize sporting activities may not always adhere to international standards and best practices.  U.S. citizens have died in Costa Rica while participating in adventure sports.  Use caution and common sense when engaging in ALL adventure sports, such as bungee jumping, sky diving, hiking, rappelling, climbing, whitewater rafting, kayaking, etc. Make sure your medical insurance covers your sport. See our section on Medical Insurance under “Health” below.

Costa Rica is the most visited nation in the Central American region,[106] with 2.9 million foreign visitors in 2016, up 10% from 2015.[107] In 2015, the tourism sector was responsible for 5.8% of the country's GDP, or $3.4 billion.[108] In 2016, the highest number of tourists came from the United States, with 1,000,000 visitors, followed by Europe with 434,884 arrivals.[109] According to Costa Rica Vacations, once tourists arrive in the country, 22% go to Tamarindo, 18% go to Arenal, 17% pass through Liberia (where the Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport is located), 16% go to San José, the country's capital (passing through Juan Santamaría International Airport), while 18% choose Manuel Antonio and 7% Monteverde.[110]
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